Rusty Newton likes to tell a story about the success his father achieved in undertaking fund-raising activities for his alma mater, Princeton University. A war hero who flew many combat missions, Newton’s father went to college on the GI Bill.
“He would go to people who had been very successful in their business careers and who he knew had gone to college on the GI Bill,” Newton said. “He would calculate the present value of a college education and would say it was time for them to pay for their free education.”
That same principle is guiding Newton, his wife, Kathy, and their family to make one of the lead $1 million gifts in The Power of Transformation Campaign for the University of North Florida. Newton, who is co-chairing the campaign, believes the principle of “paying it forward” will be a key motivator for many donors in the $110 million initiative.
Long a supporter of programs to help students at UNF, Newton is devoting 100 percent of his family’s most recent gift to scholarships. Specifically, he is contributing to the First Generation Scholarship Program, The Jacksonville Commitment and the Ann C. Hicks Merit Scholarship. “The First Generation program and The Jacksonville Commitment are the two main areas for my support because I believe in the power of a four-year college education. It’s an opportunity that I’ve had and I certainly want to help those that need some help to get an education for themselves,” he said.
The impact of the Newton family gift will be magnified through the state’s matching gift program. The First Generation Scholarship Program, aimed at children who are the first in their families to attend college, provides a dollar-for-dollar match. Newton said that kind of leverage makes giving to UNF even more attractive.
Newton speaks fondly of the one-to-one relationships he has been able to establish with students. When the University sponsors luncheons with scholarship recipients, it gives donors an opportunity to see how UNF is transforming the students’ lives. “I hear so many stories that make me feel grateful to be able to help these students. And what’s even more remarkable is every one of them say when they get into a position they are going to give back to a scholarship program to help others.”
One such student is Yekaterina Gorelova who came to the United States from Ukraine with seven brothers and sisters. Although she ranked third in her 2006 Terry Parker High School class, she couldn’t afford college even with a Bright Futures Scholarship picking up most of the cost. “I did not think my family could afford expensive books, supplies and other necessities for college,” she said.
She received a First Generation Scholarship, which removed the financial barriers to a college education. “It is a great honor for me to attend a university where admission is not based on my faith as it is in the Ukraine. I am truly thankful for the generous donors who made college possible for me. I believe the scholarship not only had an impact on me but also on my younger siblings. They know that is it possible to go to college because of the generosity of donors.”
UNF President John Delaney said the contribution by the Newton family is only the latest chapter in their legacy of helping the community. “I’m grateful to have Rusty as one of the co-chairs of our campaign and thrilled that his family has chosen to lead by example in making this major gift.”
The president of Timucuan Asset Management, a financial advisory service company, Newton has contributed more than money to the UNF Foundation since joining the board in 1992.
As chair of the Foundation’s Advancement Committee, Newton was responsible for organizing the board’s annual fund-raising campaign. When he became chair of the Foundation’s Investment Committee, he oversaw a significant increase in its assets and led the discussion in ways to enhance the management strategy of the endowment. In July of 2006, Newton became president of the UNF Foundation.
Dr. Pierre N. Allaire, vice president for Institutional Advancement, said Newton also has been able to bring to the Foundation knowledge of the latest nationwide trends through his involvement with the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.
“Rusty has also shown great leadership in improving access and diversity at UNF by promoting the First Generation and Jacksonville Commitment scholarships,” Allaire said.
Newton said his goal is to contribute to the betterment of the Jacksonville community. His message is simple to others in the community who have benefited from an education: It’s time to pay it back.